Maybe Errol Flynn was never the war hero that he often played, but he was a capable boxer, and Gentleman Jim makes full use of this skill. Flynn stars as Jim Corbett, the 19th-century American pugilist who introduced "scientific" methods to bare-knuckle boxing. Originally an office clerk, Corbett is introduced to the then-illegal sport of fighting when one of the bank executives sponsors the young man's training at the Olympic Club. His arrogance wins Corbett a few enemies, including high-born lady Victoria Ware (Alexis Smith), whose dislike turns to casual affection when she realizes that Corbett is a sincere young fellow who can back up his boasts. What "Gentleman Jim" desires most in life is a match with reigning heavyweight champ John L. Sullivan (Ward Bond). Corbett and Sullivan finally meet in a bout governed by those new Marquis of Queensbury rules that Corbett has helped popularize. Twenty-one epoch-making rounds later, Corbett emerges victorious. At the victory celebration, Sullivan and Corbett graciously exchange mutual words of respect and affection. At this point, Corbett has totally won over the lovely Victoria -- but hasn't quite convinced his brawling brothers that "scientific" boxing is the wave of the future, and the film ends with a typical Raoul Walsh-directed battle royal. More faithful to the facts than most Errol Flynn biopics (but still with enough poetic license to drive historical purists up a wall), Gentleman Jim is broad, boisterous entertainment. Though it looks expensive, the film was made under Warner Bros.' standard pinchpenny restrictions; if you look closely at that moored ship where Corbett has one of his first professional fights, you'll notice that it's a leftover set from the 1940 Errol Flynn swashbuckler The Sea Hawk.
by Hal Erickson synopsis